“That wasn’t some li’l friend of hers. That was her son, you hear me? Her son!” Her voice cracks. “She carried that boy, birthed that boy. And you have no right to judge her.”

Lisa’s emotional reaction to Starr’s claim that Brenda has no right to be upset about Khalil’s death establishes her as a powerful voice of empathy. While we might find it easy to agree with Starr, who is angry with Brenda for her drug use, Lisa reminds us that Brenda’s bad decisions do not change the fact that she has just lost her son. Lisa’s remarkable ability to see through other people’s hurtful actions and offer love and support are some of her most defining character traits.

When [Seven]’s around, none of that matters. She loves him more than she hates Iesha.

Starr explains that Lisa won’t even say mean things about Iesha to Maverick if Seven is around because she knows that Iesha is Seven’s mother. If Lisa were to insult her or bring up Maverick’s affair, those comments would end up implicitly criticizing Seven, who came from that affair. Worse, such comments could make him feel unwelcome in their home because Iesha remains a point of contention in Maverick and Lisa’s marriage. Lisa’s refusal to penalize a child based on his mother and father’s hurtful decision demonstrates her caring and mature character.

“We can’t stay here, Maverick,” she says, and her voice is shaky, like she’s been holding something in this entire time and is just now letting it out. “This won’t get better. It’ll get worse.”

Tension arises between Lisa and Maverick because Lisa wants to move out of Garden Heights for the sake of their children. Whereas Maverick tends to focus on the ideological implications of all his decisions, Lisa balances his philosophy with her emotional intelligence. Here Lisa insists that her priority is the safety and wellbeing of her children, and that she wants them to have a good environment to grow up in.

At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.

Lisa explains this philosophy of forgiveness while counseling Starr on how to evaluate her friendship with Hailey. In the quotation, Lisa refers to how her mother often said hurtful things to her growing up and she also states that this philosophy helped her forgive Maverick. She recognizes that people inevitably do hurtful things in relationships, allowing space for them to be imperfect. Instead of focusing on the mistake, she focuses on how that mistake compares to the positive aspects of that relationship. This philosophy is at the root of the powerful empathy Lisa has modeled to Starr throughout the book.